Stacking the Deck

Some things are meant to be stacked –ย  things like pancakes and books and rocks.

But most of the time when you hear the term stacking, it’s tied to the deck, which isn’t such a good thing.

I grew up in a family of really good card players. Not competitive card players, but good enough to hold their own in Bid Euchre or Pinochle or any of a dozen other card games. Playing cards was something we did after dinner at virtually all family gatherings.
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Everyone was pretty equally matched except for my Uncle Max who was a border-line savant and counted cards. Playing against Uncle Max was like playing with a stacked deck.
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The only person in my family who didn’t play cards was my Grandma. She quit playing Go Fish with me when I was 4 because she said I cheated. I didn’t. Each fish color had a different expression so I always could tell what she was holding. My Grandma was pretty cut-throat.
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The only other not fun card playing experience I can remember was when my sister brought Ray home from college. I was in first or second grade. He asked me if I wanted to learn a new card game? Thrilled to be included, I said Yes! He took the deck of cards, did an impressive one-handed shuffle and then shot cards out of his hand all over the room. That, he said, is 52 Card Pick Up – and you get to pick them up.

He thought that was really funny. If you’re a clever but unscrupulous card player, you may have an idea how to stack the deck. Ray probably knows how to do that, too.

We’re stacking here but it’s not cards and it’s stunning and not a bit funny.

Our ability to adapt is amazing. Our ability to change isn’t quite as spectacular. ~ Lisa Lutz

Stacking an Oil Rig: To store a drilling rig on completion of a job when the rig is to be withdrawn from operation for a time.

Since becoming TSAs, we’ve bounced around only a little bit – surprising little for this business. Our first job in December of 2010 was on a hunting ranch way down south. It was such a Top Secret Job, we didn’t even know what we were guarding. It was short – 3 1/2 weeks. The day after our TSA ended, we got a call to join a rig. We stayed with them for almost a year, until they stacked in the winter of 2011.

We subbed for a couple of months. We took a break to replace the side of the brand new 5th wheel that we’d owned for 2 weeks when I ripped it off on a baby palm tree.

Then, almost a year ago, we joined a new TSC with a drilling rig that was less than a year old and we’ve been with them ever since. We thought we’d be with them until we retired. They thought we’d be with them until we retired. Turns out, the rig is retiring and we’re all looking for work.

We have about a week left until we stack. We don’t have a job or a place to stay to wait for one. This time of year the yards and RV parks and campgrounds are all flooded with Winter Texans. The day we learned the news, we signed back up for Workamper and started a job search. It lasted for about a half an hour. Then we stopped. The thing is, for quite a number of reasons, we really love our job as TSAs.

What’s been striking about stacking is that everyone, up and down the ladder (with us being the bottom rung) has had the same reaction: It’s so hard because we’re like a family. That doesn’t usually happen but it did here.

We’ve been saying goodbye to guys we’ve prayed for every day for a year. That does something to your heart, I think. Something good. It’s been a gift for us.

We aren’t likely to get another assignment like this one, which was pretty close to perfect, but we’re counting on being assigned some place, eventually, that’s good for us for other reasons and, hopefully, we’ll somehow be good for them in return.

I’m not inclined to worry so I’m expecting another job and a place to stay until then. I don’t often get scared about practical things. I was scared the other day when there was an enormous spider on the ceiling. Not enormous like a tarantula, more like a golf ball enormous.

When I get scared, I’m kind of the deer-in the-headlight type. Heidi, on the other hand, gets mad when she’s scared. Except when she used to get mad at me, I’ve found this to be a greatly beneficial opposite reaction. She was scared of the enormous spider, which of course, made her very mad. She got right up on a stool and walloped it with her sandal without even staining the paint. She hollered, Henry hid and I froze. It all worked out.

And it’ll all work out with a new job, too. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why I like this job that I seem so ill-suited for. We have minimal internet access but if I can stay connected, I’ll write about some of the quite unexpected things I’ve learned as a TSA.

In case you ever want to try stacking Multi-Grain Cheerios, it helps if you lick them first… just sayin’. I found this out quite by accident.

In A Land Far, Far Away

So many people have written, asking what in the world possessed Heidi and I to embark on this wild ride. Since I began writing Fork as a way to up date a few friends and family who already knew the whole story, I guess it never occurred to me to begin at the beginning! I’ll try to move the tale along with photos (that way you can skip the narrative if you wish and still get the general idea).

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It all began in a land far, far away called Iowa. Heidi and I met, I’m guessing, in 1982 in the nursery at our church. Our boys were both born that year, 6 months apart, so we spent quite a bit of time in the nursery.

To be honest, we didn’t hit it off at first. Actually, she didn’t particularly like me and I was afraid of her. ๐Ÿ˜€

We were just about as opposite in our relational styles as two people could be.

Heidi was a fiery, straight to the point, red-headed Fighter.

I was a classic, non-confrontational, peacemaking Flighter.

We got used to each other after a while. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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The first Fork in the Road really took place in the late 1980’s when we started, what eventually proved to be a fairly successful Speaking/Training business, capitalizing on our opposite-ness. We taught communication skills – primarily to healthcare professionals – for the next 20 years.

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In the spring of 2008, Heidi found a renter for her house, bought a 32 foot Motorhome and packed up to escape Iowa winters, which were becoming miserable for her due to some health issues.

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With one halfย  hour driving lesson and verbal instructions on how to hook up her Saturn for towing, she was ready to go. Did I mention she’s a Fighter? She was completely undaunted.

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I was recently divorced so Henry and I decided to hitch a ride. We said many, many tearful goodbyes and set out to begin a grand adventure.

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Initially, we’d hoped to take the business on the road, but the logistics of marketing 6-9 months in advance when you didn’t know where you’ll be living stumped us. At this point we came to another Fork in the Road.

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When we’d spoken at the National Health Care Convention in Portland, Oregon several years earlier, we rented a car and took a road trip to Cannon Beach. I’d always loved the ocean, but Heidi, not so much. She fell in love with the ocean in Oregon.

Many of you are familiar with an organization called Workamper which caters to part-time and full-time RVers. Before leaving Iowa, we saw a Workamper ad for a job in a private RV park in Gold Beach, Oregon (on the southern coast, 60 miles north of the CA border). We called and got the job. We work-camped (each working in the office 20 hrs per week) in exchange for free site and utilities, with the promise of pay for hours over the required 20.

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At this point in our newly begun adventure, we ran into two problems. The first is fairly common. There didn’t turn out to be any hours over the required 20. The second was hopefully rare: the owners of the park were unethical and unscrupulous (which is why I’m not mentioning the name here).ย  There is an English proverb that says:

Every path has its puddle.

Well, yep, weย  stepped in that one. No extra hours meant no income. I was a frequent visitor at the Gold Beach Visitors center – coming in for tide tables and trying to learn all I could about the area. One of the part-time employees told me there was a position opening up. I was fortunate enough to be hired. It was an incredible job! I loved promoting the area and I could watch the waves break on the beach from my desk.

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As much as I loved the Visitors Center, it was only 18 hours a week at minimum wage. So when our 6 months of work-camping ended, we came to another Fork in the Road.

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We said goodbye to our new friends, left Oregon and headed to California for another work-camping job.

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For 6 months we worked at Edgewater Resort and RV Park on Clear Lake. This time we got paid for every hour worked and then we repaid the park for our site (at a reduced rate).

I cleaned the pool. That was the easy job. ๐Ÿ˜€

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We cleaned cabins, campsites and did yard work. We cleaned the restrooms… all the time!

I’m sure we had the cleanest restrooms in the state of California. Not only did we clean them every hour –ย  each Monday we spent half a day power washing and bleaching every inch from the ceiling to the floor drains and all the fixtures in between.

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We painted fences and built fire-pits and shoveled gravel.

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It was tough, physical labor and it made for one long, hot summer. We worked 5 days a week and cleaned houses for our boss on the 6th.

I don’t think either of us had ever been as tired in our lives as we were that summer. At the end of the day, Henry had to help me hold my book. ๐Ÿ˜€

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This fishing was good, though! I was rarely too tired to fish (catch and release).:D

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Six months later, the season was over in CA and we’d come to another Fork in the Road. Henry’s traveling companion in these photos is Harvey, the un-invisible Pooka – my homage to my favorite movie, Harvey.

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We longed for the wild Oregon coast.

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My wonderful boss at the Visitors Center did some fast talking and I got my job back. This is a photo of Heidi and I with Sue, who was my boss, and now is a life long friend!

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While I worked at the Visitors Center in Gold beach, we lived 27 mile to the north in Port Orford where we worked as Park Hosts. We worked in two stunningly beautiful State Parks.

This was my commute.

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If you’ve never driven 101 along the Western coast, it would make a great bucket list addition!

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I don’t think anyone’s ever had a more beautiful drive to work.

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At Cape Blanco, Heidi cleaned 5 little cabins while I worked in Gold Beach.

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Two nights a week, we sold firewood. We were frequent visitors to the lighthouse in the park.

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Tseriadun State Park, also in Port Orford, is a day use only park. We were there Oct – Dec, so all we did was keep the path to the ocean and the beach litter free.

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It was a rough gig as you can see. ๐Ÿ˜‰

We were the only ones there. We closed the gate every night at 6 p.m.

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The State Park jobs in Oregon are usually set up on a 3 month rotation. When our time in Port Orford was over, we settled in a little RV park in Gold Beach. It was off-season so most of the time we had the whole park to ourselves.

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We left our chairs in the lighthouse for storm watching. It was also a wonderful place to watch the highway of crab boats that ran from December through March.

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I literally walked out the door and down the beach to work. It was incredible! Then, one day, it dawned on us that we were still really quite broke and were running out ofย  years to rectify that.

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Through my contacts at the VC, I was offered a job as a live-in night manager at a beautiful resort in town.

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Within weeks, I was also the Guest Services Manager, Heidi was the Assistant General Manager and Henry was the Mascot.

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Which is all the data my computer can handle for tonight.

Next stop, Texas.

To be continued…